Column on Bad v. Good Pitch to Voters

Bad v. Good Pitch to Votes
Tibor R. Machan
Do voters actually believe it when candidates promise them health,
happiness, vacations, clean air, and all those other goodies while also
demanding that they stop being selfish, stop joining special interest
groups and dedicate themselves only to the public good? I doubt it very
much. This sort of pitch seems to me to put most reasonable voters on
guard. Something is up, a ruse is afoot, for no one can deliver on these
promises. (Or are voters like all those gamblers flocking to Las Vegas who
think they will come away big winners?) So a great many people stay away
from the voting booth and it’s all left in the hands of dreamers.
I am not sure if candidates have actually given this a try but I would
count on a different strategy. How about promising voters just one thing,
namely, a competent defense against the violence of those of their fellows
who are inclined to be violent, against those who wreak crime and war. And
then urge them not to stop being selfish but to be intelligently
self-interested. That would be thinking of some broad benefits that we all
should be striving for, such as freedom, the security of our rights,
peace, and justice. These are benefits all voters would gain from big
time! So they are objectives that are quite reasonably considered
self-interested, for everyone.
But such self-interested benefits need some education to be effectively
appealing to voters. Too many people shun being thought of as selfish
because they associate selfishness with trivial pursuits. Yet, genuine,
serious, big time selfishness is about broad, lasting values such as
justice and peace. Those are what is really good for us all!
In that very famous movie, Casablanca, Rick, the character of Humphrey
Bogart, turns to Ilsa, the character of Ingrid Bergman, near the end of
the film and delivers a little speech that goes like this: “Ilsa, I’m no
good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of
three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid….”
Unfortunately a great many who’ve seen the film take Rick to be talking of
self-sacrifice whereas, in fact, what he is talking about is devotion to
great values, such as liberty and justice–values that Ilsa will in time
realize outweigh those she would like to have now, namely, romantic bliss.
If those running for office were truly devoted to high ideals, they could
explain to voters that these high ideals are of great importance to all.
They are to everyone’s self-interest both short and long term.
That is what proper, uncorrupted politics is about: devotion to very high
human community values, such as rights, liberty, justice, the rule of law,
peace and all those conditions that are indispensable for people aiming to
live flourishing lives in their communities. To think that devoting
oneself to these amounts to unselfishness, self-sacrifice, is bizarre.
These are everyone’s most important values, with everything
else–including (and this comes from a died in the wool romantic) a great
romance–paling in comparison.
Urging people to renounce their self-interest will simply never fly for
very long. The idea that serving others is more important than serving
oneself just sounds nice–yes, nice–but is by no means noble. Noble
objectives are all elevating to those who pursue them. Saving one’s child
from a blazing fire is noble but not because it is unselfish. (Is there
anything that’s more genuinely selfish than saving one’s family from
disaster? And one’s friends, and sometimes even strangers?)
No, candidates need to educate voters about how utterly selfish and proper
it is for them to vote for those who will secure for them justice, the
protection of their rights, peace and other social conditions that make a
decent, good human life possible for us all. And if they cannot do this,
then they are not good candidates for political office. Then they are
merely vying to gain power so as to implement some kind of agenda they can
never fulfill.
Bona fide politicians, serving us as honest political representatives, are
very much to our self-interest. And the candidate who can deliver on that
promise must also see it as something of grave importance to him or her!
That is the way constituents and politicians can come together without
cynicism, without suspicion.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s